Robert Berry’s ’34 coupe was born in the USA but now spends its time in Darwin

Photographers: Nathan Jacobs

SOME hot rods just stop you in your tracks when you first spot them, and that was definitely the case when I laid eyes on Robert Berry’s chopped and channelled ’34 coupe in Alice Springs. It was probably the last kind of car I expected to see at Red CentreNATS, but everything about it was spot-on, from the wedge chop on the roof to the nose-down stance and laid-back grille. The car had attitude, and lots it.

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 3 NwAs I got closer I started to notice a few things that would ordinarily irk me on a hot rod that otherwise looked like it came straight out of the 60s – ball-milled rocker covers, modern bucket seats, even a digital dash. But it actually just made me want to know more about the car’s history, and as it was LHD, I figured it had recently been imported from the USA.

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 5 NwIt wasn’t long before I found Robert in order to learn some more. “It is an original ’34 chassis and body and has been a hot rod since the early 50s,” he said. “It was updated during the 80s and has a few luxuries like an electric trunk, electric windows and the Dakota dash, but that’s basically it. It feels sacrilegious to change anything.

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 4 Nw“It’s a ’69 Corvette motor with twin 650s on an Edelbrock tunnel-ram. I’d love to put a blower on it – just for aesthetics, not for speed – but I don’t want to change the grille. When you look at it, it’s like looking at a perfect woman with perfect breasts and perfect hips and everything is spot-on. It’s a lover, not a fighter!” It looks like it goes fast, and that’s the important thing.

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 1 NwThe major contributor to the coupe’s bad-arse look is the wheel and tyre combo, with the Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels measuring up at 15×4 on the front and 15×15 on the rear – but don’t worry, these are just the show wheels. There’s a more sensible set in the shed for regular street duty.

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 8 NwUnlike some cars that are brought in from the US, the coupe was built to an exceptionally high standard, although Robert did have to change a couple of things: “It had a chromed front axle in it, so I had to change that, and the diff was too narrow in it, so I sent it down to Adelaide to have it cut and widened because it was only about 800mm.”

34 Ford Coupe Hot Rod 6 NwLike all good hot rods, the car is made up of whichever parts suited requirements: “It’s got a Chrysler diff, Chev engine and a Ford body – and I love every bit of it,” Robert said.